Let’s say you have a startup in education, or in another non-typical startup field. In this case, you are wasting your time if you are pitching to Venture Capital firms or traditional angel investors. Most of them won’t get what you are building and especially why you are building it.
If your business is making a difference in people’s lives and is not just about maximizing profits, then you need a different kind of investor.
Maybe your ideal investor is a philanthropist, an extremely successful serial entrepreneur or a CEO of a successful company. This requires that you think differently about finding investors than just by Googling something like “Venture Capital Switzerland”.
How Do You Know Who is Right?
Before you can go out there and find impact investors, it’s essential that you understand who you are targeting. Otherwise, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack.
When I work with startups to help them build relationships with impact investors and influencers, they sometimes need my help with getting started because they don’t know where to find these investors.
It’s not like there is an “AngelList for Impact Investors”.
These investors tend to be more hidden and less publicly visible. It’s more tricky to find them.
When I start working with my clients, we always create an “Ideal Investor Avatar”. You know how this works from creating your “Ideal Customer Avatar”. It’s essentially the same thing, just with the investor in mind. This gives you a crystal clear picture about who that person is and gives you plenty of ideas on where and how to find them.
If you do it right, you will literally be able to paint a picture of that person and have an avatar profile that tells you where they spend time offline and online, who they hang out with and what their professional title is.
All this information acts as your filter to know if you are looking in the right places but also if you are looking for the right investors.
Once you have created your “Ideal Investor Avatar”, you can start using different ways of searching for them. Here are four.
1. LinkedIn Pulse
If you have known me for a while now, you probably heard me talk about LinkedIn a few times. I love it for searching, researching and connecting with influential people.
LinkedIn Pulse is the feature where you can publish articles and share them with your followers. You get to publish alongside several hundreds of hand-picked influencers on LinkedIn including Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Jack Welch and many others.
It’s also a fantastic research tool because you can look for keywords that people write about.
Let’s say you have a startup in education that involves kids. If you do a search for “education kids”, it spits out 203,860 search results of articles that include these words.
If you’ve created your Ideal Investor Avatar, then you know what keywords to search for. Here’s a couple of questions to answer.
What do they stand for?
What excites them the most?
What do the fundamentally believe in?
What’s the future they imagine?
Take your answers to these questions, take the keywords that come up over and over again and do a search for them. You’ll be amazed by what you will find.
Another great benefit about doing this search on Pulse is that you won’t have to think about what to say when connecting to these people. You’ll simply be able to say “I read your article on X and it really inspired me because of Y”.
2. Conference Speeches
The people you are targeting are likely to have spoken at a conference before. Maybe they spoke at TEDx, maybe at an industry conference or maybe at a small gathering somewhere.
The beauty about speeches is that people can’t help themselves but express what moves them. Especially if you are looking for impact investors, then chances are they express what moves them because they are in it for the impact.
Many of these speeches get recorded and then uploaded to Youtube. TED has a lifetime worth of videos watching. Just pick your field and off you go. It’s never been easier than today to connect with influential people who share your vision for the future.
Take the keywords that came out of doing your Ideal Investor Avatar and search for them on Youtube. Maybe your keywords are “ending world hunger”, “living on Mars” or “education kids Brazil”.
Another way to go about this is to look for the conferences your ideal investors go to, or speak at. Again, this information comes from your Ideal Investor Avatar.
You can go through the speakers list or even the participants or sponsors list if they are available publicly. Get creative.
And now, to top it off, put the organizers of these conferences on your list of people to reach out to. These connections are invaluable. How many impact investors do you think the organizer of such a conference knows? At least he knows all the speakers and probably many more outside of that.
The organizer may be the only person you need to know in order to get introductions to these speakers.
For every interest and every field, there are multiple publications out there. There are probably dozens if not hundreds of publications in your industry.
These publications are a great source to find impact investors. Look for the magazines that feature people in your industry or who have lists like “40 Under 40″ or the “TOP 50 CEOs in Future Technology”.
Maybe you can even find interviews these people have given.
Start by asking yourself:
What magazines do my ideal investors read?
Which magazines would interview my ideal investors?
Which magazines would feature my ideal investors?
When you look through the magazines, look for people who express their beliefs in a way that resonate with you. If we take the example from above with the startup in education with kids, you can look for people who express their belief about the importance of education, why we need to change education or how a new system for education could look like.
The Hidden Market of Impact Investors
Impact investing is growing rapidly. However, it’s still small compared to traditional investing.
This makes it harder to identify people who are impact investors and it requires that you get a lot more creative when you look for them.
I say “hidden” because you could stare at their profile on LinkedIn and not realize they are an impact investor. They are often not the VC firms or the angel investor you find on AngelList and Gust.
Very often, they are CEOs of successful companies, celebrities, philanthropists or extremely wealthy business people who have achieved everything they wanted to achieve in their life and are now looking for a way to contribute to a brighter future.
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